- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009



Last season: 9-4 (5-3); beat Wisconsin in Champs Sports Bowl

Coach: Bobby Bowden (34th season, 44th overall)

Player to watch: G Rodney Hudson. A fixture on the Seminoles’ line the past two seasons, the junior is the focal point of a mature unit that figures to provide plenty of holes for tailback Jermaine Thomas and protect quarterback Christian Ponder. Hudson is arguably the ACC’s top interior lineman.

Key game: Oct. 10 vs. Georgia Tech. The Seminoles were tripped up in last year’s game at Georgia Tech, a loss that helped deny them an outright division title. If they can handle the triple-option, things will look good entering the second half.

Outlook: As time winds down on Papa Bowden’s storied career, a third national title appears unlikely. But adding an ACC championship to the gaggle he already has earned is possible. Armed with a veteran quarterback, a strong line and an athletic defense, the Seminoles possess the talent to make up for questions at receiver and make a strong push for their first ACC crown in four years.

Prediction: 9-3, 6-2


Last season: 6-7 (4-4); lost to Rutgers in Papajohns.com Bowl

Coach: Tom O’Brien (third season, 13th overall)

Player to watch: QB Russell Wilson. His 17 touchdown passes and one interception were nice enough, but the Wolfpack’s bowl game collapse after Wilson was injured illustrates just how valuable the shifty sophomore is. Until proved otherwise, Wilson should be considered the conference MVP; N.C. State just isn’t very good without him.

Key game: Oct. 31 at Florida State. The Wolfpack come off their bye for a Halloween showdown in Tallahassee. What’s more, N.C. State plays three of its four November games at home. This could be a meeting of the Atlantic’s top teams and is one of the league’s few must-see games.

Outlook: It took three years for O’Brien to begin rattling off eight- and nine-win seasons at Boston College, and a rerun of that trend wouldn’t be surprising in Raleigh. Wilson and backup Mike Glennon will both play, making the Wolfpack deeper at quarterback than anyone else in the ACC. But an equally significant concern is replacing linebacker Nate Irving, who will miss the year after an offseason car wreck.

Prediction: 8-4, 5-3

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